As George Zimmerman Readies for Hearing Don’t Forget About John McNeil (Video)

John McNeil leaving prison after six years for defending his family and his home from Brian Epp, who he shot and killed after he threatened him and his son with a knife.
John McNeil (center) leaving prison after six years for defending his family and his home from Brian Epp, who he shot and killed after he threatened him and his son with a knife.

George Zimmerman is preparing to have another status hearing tomorrow on his murder trial set to begin June 10.  The state’s attorney requested Zimmerman’s presence so that the court can ensure he approves the defense waiving his right to an immunity hearing, but also so the prosecution can determine what he is planning to do with the Stand Your Ground law.

But, as we prepare for this detrimental case, there is another case that should remain on our minds.  The John McNeil case should set the tone for the trial, but it is only similar because Zimmerman used the Stand Your Ground law as his defense.  McNeil had an authentic Stand Your Ground case.

John McNeil’s 19-year-old son was being threatened with a knife by an intruder, Brian Epp, who had once worked for McNeil as a contractor and had previous disagreements with him.  Epp had been lurking around McNeil’s Georgia property and his wife, who was suffering from cancer, was interviewed saying that Epp called 911 and notified them that he was on his way home and obviously that Epp was on his property, according to Think Progress.

McNeil fired a warning shot to scare Epp off of his property, but Epp charged him and McNeil shot him.  Think Progress reported from The Grio:

“When police investigated the death of Brian Epp, they determined that John McNeil was merely acting in self-defense when he shot Epp for allegedly loitering on his property, threatening him and his 19-year-old son with a knife. They didn’t charge him with any crime. But 274 days later, McNeil was prosecuted and sentenced to life in prison.”

McNeil spent six years in prison.  In February, McNeil had a hearing that led to his release with time served and 13 years probation after he plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.  Do you see the differences in the case?  McNeil did not engage Epp. He did not go after him and pull him into a struggle with him.  Epp was definitely loitering and threatening the McNeil family, according to witnesses and police. So why did he go to jail anyway?

Whatever the reasoning may be, Zimmerman has a little more he should be contending with in his quest to fight, not involuntary manslaughter, but second degree murder (that many feel should’ve been first degree murder).  If this man was sentenced to life in prison for actually defending his family and property, we should be hopeful for the Martin family.

By the way, as McNeil sat in prison, he lost his mother in July 2012 and his wife of 22 years, lost her battle with cancer a week before he was released.  He came out to bury her two days later on Valentine’s day.  The only reason he pleaded guilty is because his wife told him she needed him at home for their boys and this would possibly lead to his release.  McNeil was a respected citizen and has since moved back to his hometown in North Carolina.

The Epp family still view the incident as simple murder and argue that Epp was “killed for nothing.” Check out the report on his release in February detailing his story and read more about McNeil’s life here.  McNeil said:

“One of the things that Anita said before her passing was that `I want justice served,'” McNeil said. “That’s what this journey is about. It ain’t about coming out, celebrating. It’s about total justice.”

-J.C. Brooks

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